Resident Evil has been something of a rollercoaster. What was once the standard for survival horror, eventually moved to action, ultimately returning to its roots. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard turned a lot of heads and set the stage for bigger and better things. Capcom has since done a lot to build up Resident Evil Village, a title that has repeatedly found ways to stand out. With it finally in players’ hands, is it a bloody good time or a horrible mess?
As you may or may not know, Resident Evil Village is a continuation of the story started in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Here we return to Ethan Winters’s adventure three years after the events of the previous game. While I do suggest playing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, there is a small five or so-minute-long explanation of the events. It’s the perfect refresher or introduction, even if it sounds rather corny when explained that quickly.
After choosing to either hear about the events prior, the cold open shows Ethan with his wife Mia and newborn daughter Rosemarie. In typical Resident Evil fashion, everything seems perfectly fine, until, well, they aren’t. This starts a series of events that place Ethan in a situation where he needs to eliminate Mother Miranda and her lords to reclaim his daughter.
Even though there is a strong opening, the story often remains more objective-based. Many characters exist as a prop to deal with or side detail to ultimately move the plot forward. It isn’t terribly unexpected, though don’t expect much until it happens. Though, gameplay will keep you more than engaged along the way.
Perhaps the oddest thing about Resident Evil Village is how it isn’t quite sure what kind of game it wants to be. The first encounter is easily the most difficult part of the game, largely due to limited resources, poor explanation of what to do, and hordes of enemies that feel like they belong in Resident Evil 5, with gameplay similar to the original Resident Evil games. After eventually learning the event is simply a timer and the whole point is to survive a period of time, things shift back to a more traditional survival horror experience.
Seemingly endless Lycans decreases to a small handful broken up by puzzles and cutscenes. In fact, once you’re out of the village section things to swap from a scary puzzle game to a linear run. Enemies, level design, and bosses generally make some sections all about moving forward or going a specific direction, neither of which adds to the excitement. Failing is not getting the trick, which could be as simple as a hole in the wall to as complicated as remembering where a specific room is. These overly mechanic sections take away from the core experience, as do many of the actual rooms.
A good portion of Resident Evil Village is linear. Things might open up, there is absolutely a benefit to exploring every inch of a room, though most times it’s the usual Resident Evil stuff. This door is locked from this site, you need an item to do this, and often times the solution isn’t overly thrilling. Like, you open a gate that leads to a bottle that gives you keys to finally open a door. This is, kind of, an oversimplification but that is largely how these sections go.
The rest of the time is just collecting resources. Crafting continues to exist and often offers Ethan an easier way to deal with most foes. It takes some time to build this section up, often requiring some assistance from The Duke, the mysterious vendor in Resident Evil Village, leading to a rather lackluster cycle. At this point, most sections are collect resources, make ammo, fight enemies, use ammo, look for ammo to replace your previously used ammo.
None of this stuff is really surprising for a Resident Evil title, not that it makes things excusable, though Capcom found a different way to make Resident Evil Village shine. Much to no one’s surprise, virtual surround sound is really something else. Much like a good horror movie, sights and sounds are used to create an unnerving experience.
This starts shortly into the adventure when you’re in the field of crops. It’s clear there are enemies coming for you, though they can’t be seen and it’s impossible to tell if there is a threat or if you’re going to shoot at nothing. Later, places like the castle are filled with terrifying noises. Some lead to hostile encounters, others just make you jumpy but regardless of which path it takes, they really elevate the experience to the next level.
Similar things can be said about visuals. A lot of time, attention, and detail went into the smallest elements of Resident Evil Village. Be it the lighting, interesting mechanics, jump scares, or just the overall grandness of certain things, it’s a game that warrants exploration. Not to mention fear and other craziness.
Resident Evil Village Review Verdict
Success really depends on what you’re looking for. Traditional fans will likely love the experience. Puzzles are fun, combat is intense, enemies feel unrelenting and there is a need to explore if you want to stay alive. Anyone hoping for a more intense run and gun adventure will likely be disappointed. There are absolutely some great moments, just questionable design choices and a rough opening prevent it from being perfect.
[Editor’s Note: Resident Evil Village was reviewed on PlayStation 5 and a copy was provided to us.]